When we first moved to San Clemente, Ecuador in December of 2011, we were delighted to see some small fruit and vegetable stands and small stores (tiendas) in town that had a good assortment of items. In addition small trucks and even modified bicycles with a platform on the front make their way up and down the streets selling some items. We were able to find fresh fruits and vegetables at what we thought were good prices.
But, one day Mary wanted to make sopa de papa (Ecuadorian potato soup) and sent me off on my bicycle to locate some avocado (aguacate). I went first to Freddy’s market which generally has the largest selection of vegetables and worked my way around town asking everyone if they had aguacate and no one did. Several shop owners suggested that I had to go to Charapoto to the mercado on Saturday or Sunday for aguacate. We also heard that the mercado in Charapoto had great deals on pineapples and other fruit, so we determined to take the bus to Charapoto the next weekend.
We went to the market in Charapoto the next weekend and have only missed three or four weekends in the last ten months. We get all of the fruits and vegetables we need for the week and have a great time doing it. We have written previous posts about the vegetables and fruits available at the Charapoto market, but today we wanted to talk about the people there.
Here is a picture of Rosa and her husband who sold us most of our roses and actually delivered them to our home on several Tuesdays:
The market is a bustling throng of merchants and shoppers crammed into four or five blocks of narrow roadways on both sides of the road. The days often get hot and the crowds get so thick that it is difficult to walk about. Anywhere that I have been in the United States in such a crowd on hot days, people would be irritable and cranky. By contrast, look at the faces of my friends at the Charapoto market!
These are the people from whom we bought huge bags of soil additive for our garden. I see them on Sundays, pay them and sometime by Monday or Tuesday the bags are delivered to our home!
Remember that Mary and I go to Charapoto by bus with two backpacks and two fairly large duffel bags to carry our purchases home on another bus. One particularly hot day we were purchasing lots of pineapples, potatoes, oranges, and other especially heavy bulky items. I had the larger backpack on and both duffel bags slung over my shoulders and was struggling somewhat to hoist what seemed like eighty pounds of vegetables and fruit up from the ground after loading the bags. One of the sales people asked me if I was alright and I said, “No problema, yo soy un burro.” (No problem, I am a donkey).
Several people heard me and they all started to laugh. I let out with a loud donkey’s bray, “Hee, Haw” and the laughter grew to include dozens of people. At this point in any U.S. store or roadway, parents would be grabbing their children and herding them away from the madman.
But here in Charapoto people called to one another and brought their children nearer. Someone asked me if I could do a horse and, of course, I had to let loose with a loud horse’s neigh. Before I could get out of the market, I had people up and down the roadway calling out animals to me for me to imitate. Mind you these people were adults and young people alike. Now, I can not go to the market without someone asking me to do some animal sounds!
I taught this young man to sing the opening line to, “Wooly Bully” (Uno, dos, one, two, three, quatro!):
This young man is related to the other young man I sing with and he gets a kick out of the horse sounds:
Some of these people have products that we never buy (like the chickens cut on wooden tables and piled high in the open warn sunshine), but they still call out to us and proudly show off their wares.
Some have become good friends and make their way out from behind their stalls to hug us as we pass.
Rosa with my favorite smiling face at the Charapoto market:
But, this guy (without the cap) is undoubtedly the most jolly soul in the entire market! I think he actually has a crush on Mary and often tries to convince her that she should come home with him. I have to go over and good-naturedly push my way between them and pull Mary off. When Lori came with us to the market she wondered if perhaps he had already consumed too many cervesas that morning. We told her that he is always like that as he danced around the street!
We love Ecuador for many reasons, but, without a doubt, the thing we love the most are the smiles on the faces of people who love life! Now we have to leave for the market so I better brush up on my animal sounds. Would not want to disappoint my fans!
Life is very good in Ecuador!
Written by John. Photographs by John Macdonald and Lori Thomay.